Well, you’ve got to hand it to Donald Trump. He certainly does know how to change the subject. After two weeks of non-stop talk about the women he groped, intimidated, violated, and assaulted, he’s made sure that the most discussed point of the day is whether “the system is rigged.” From a PR standpoint, it’s stellar work, really. Not only has he diverted the attention of those who might be momentarily deterred from casting their ballots for a sexual predator, but he’s also given his supporters a raft of righteous indignation to board following the election he’s all but certain to lose.
— RiggedElection John (@JrcheneyJohn) October 19, 2016
Even some celebrities are getting in on the conspiracy theory:
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) October 19, 2016
As I’ve said before, people are entitled to see the facts as they wish; if Trumpsters wish to ignore the many credible studies analyzing voter fraud and concluding that it’s not an actual problem, that’s their choice. But it’s the rest of Trump’s message that really packs a punch– the part about what should be done to prevent or punish those involved in the conspiracy to defraud our democracy. Even if voter fraud were a major problem, it is not up to private citizens to police, prevent, or punish it.
The responsibility to ensure fair electoral processes lies with the individual states. Republicans, who stand on a platform of state sovereignty, should know this. If Pennsylvania can’t get its act together at the polls, then the proper remedy would be to hold Pennsylvania accountable – not to create a vigilante election militia. Plus, there’s also the Department of Justice as a failsafe. The DOJ website is pretty clear:
What responsibilities does the Justice Department have with regard to voter fraud or intimidation?
The administration of elections is chiefly a function of state government. However, federal authorities may become involved where there are possible violations of federal law. In cases where intimidation, coercion, or threats are made or attempts to intimidate, threaten or coerce are made to any person for voting or attempting to vote, the Department of Justice can consider whether there is federal jurisdiction to bring civil claims or criminal charges under federal law. Depending on the nature of the allegations, they may fall into the jurisdiction of different parts of the Department.
But Trump hasn’t encouraged his supporters to call their state governments, or the DOJ; he has, instead, created a call to action. His message is clear: his supporters are entitled to take matters into their own hands. He planted the suggestion, and his supporters are running with it.
This Florida man proudly Tweeted his own portable democracy cage that will purportedly help “landslide Trump.”
Florida we gonna landslide TRUMP….wear’n red at polls… We gonna be watch’n fer shenanigans…& haul ya away.. pic.twitter.com/YbSJTZvRWp
— Harry Miller (@jackbgoode1) August 20, 2016
This looks like kind of voter intimidation Trump is inspiring https://t.co/C7beKxpOT2
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) August 20, 2016
In the past, Trump fans created the hashtag #CodeRed to encourage their brethren to wear red to the polls in an effort to create a visual representation of support.
— Dawnie Rotten (@DawnieRotten) October 19, 2016
One “poll” was even posted suggesting that #Bikers4Trump should provide security at voting sites.
If yes help & Donate @ https://t.co/AGuHKGJgJa
— Bikers 4 Trump™ (@Bikers4Trump) August 13, 2016
— MrTrumpGoesToDC (@mdjtraveler) August 22, 2016
Trump’s implicit message isn’t about voter fraud – it’s about government. The government cannot be trusted. Our laws need not be followed. We are entitled to take any and all matters into our own hands, so long as he declares the need exists.
After spending months listening to Donald Trump’s hateful messaging, it’s tough to imagine that he could raise the bar on the danger he continues to create. But with his claims of a “rigged system,” he has done just that. Trump’s loudmouth whining can go far beyond offending us; by calling into question the integrity of the electoral process, Trump has seriously undermined our democracy. By suggesting that his supporters cannot trust their own government, he incites violence and unrest. His rationale for creating such danger is, of yet, unclear. Perhaps he honestly believes that his cries of injustice will be answered in the form of votes; perhaps he is adopting a scorched-earth policy with the entire country as a punishment for not providing him with his expected lead in the polls.
A commenter on my earlier story suggested that my comparison of Trump’s election militia to the Nazi Sturmabteilung (or “Brownshirts”) was lazy writing on my part. And that lack of creativity is precisely my point. It doesn’t take a clever analogy, or an obscure reference to describe what Trump is doing with his cries of voter fraud. It’s obvious. We’ve seen it before, with the vigilante-turned-paramilitary group that preceded the SS. There may be ways in which the rise of Trump is markedly different than the rise of the Third Reich; there are also differences between the men themselves. But on the issue of vigilante voter intimidation as a solution in search of a problem, the comparison – as is the threat of violence – is shockingly similar.
A version of the this article was first posted in August.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed here are just those of the author.
Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.